The changing face of Alabama 4-H

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Parents want children and teens involved in activities that build skills and knowledge. Young people want activities that are fun and offer variety. The answer – Alabama 4-H.

Extension professionals across the state are working closely with adult and youth advisory groups to ensure that 4-H in every county is an exciting and fun place for young people aged 9 to 18 to belong and learn.

“We are taking what has been good about 4-H since its founding more than 100 years ago and applying it with new ideas and technologies to develop the next generation of citizen leaders,” said Alabama Extension associate director Dr. Paul Brown.

Brown noted that Alabama 4-H’s Centennial Youth Initiative allows young people to take the lead in developing a 4-H program that suits their needs.

“Including youth in planning encourages increased participation in 4-H, and it will also encourage older youth to continue in 4-H.”

Six counties have recently earned the Centennial Youth Initiative Designation in recognition of their county 4-H team’s efforts to transform and revitalize 4-H.

Brown says that Mobile, Washington, Baldwin, Escambia, Cherokee and Etowah counties earned the distinction because of their excellence across the 4-H programming spectrum. These areas of excellence are forming a unified Alabama 4-H team and program; utilizing consistent research-based curriculum resources; diversifying delivery modes tailored to today’s youth; promoting plan-of-work development and teamwork at all levels; and aligning staff and position assignments to support program resources and delivery modes.

This designation will provide a full-time Alabama 4-H Foundation Agent dedicated to growing 4-H programs in each of the six counties. Alabama Extension and the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation will fund these Alabama 4-H Foundation Agents.

“Our goal is to help every county earn the Centennial Youth Initiative designation and to have a full-time 4-H agent working in every county,” Dr. Brown said.

Currently, more than 120,000 young people participate in 4-H programs in Alabama. Dr. Molly Gregg, an Alabama 4-H curriculum specialist, called the project opportunities almost boundless.

“There is truly something for everyone in 4-H,” she said. “We have projects ranging from rockets and robots to wildlife, public speaking to interior design, and archery to animals.”

In addition to a wide variety of projects, Brown said that there are many different ways to participate as well.

“We have adopted a variety of club options and delivery modes enabling every young person to access 4-H,” he said.

Some ways to participate in 4-H include enrichment programs, in-school clubs; community clubs; special interest clubs; camping; self-directed learning; and online opportunities. 

While 4-H is a fun-filled organization, parents can feel confident in 4-H programming and its volunteers.

Brown said that 4-H provides opportunities for youth to develop strong leadership skills and fosters independence – two elements parents want in their children’s activities.

“Research has shown that youth in 4-H earn better grades and are more likely to pursue a college education,” he said.

Benefits of 4-H Participation in include that youngsters are four times more likely to make contributions to their communities (Grades 7-12); two times more likely to be civically active (Grades 8-12); two times more likely to make healthier choices (Grade 7); and two times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering and Computer Technology programs during out-of-school time (Grades 10 – 12).

Brown emphasized that 4-H provides a safe and welcoming place for youth to learn and belong.

“We have a cadre of volunteers that enable Alabama Extension to reach the state’s diverse young people,” he said. “Our adult volunteers undergo a rigorous screening to assure that we maintain a safe environment for the young people.”

To learn more about participating in 4-H, you can find your county office under county government listings in the phonebook. 

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